HEY YOU! YES, YOU!!

HEY YOU! YES, YOU!!


However you may have arrived here, this is the old Not Not Silly Newsroom.

It's a long story -- hardly worth going into here -- but after this place was declared a Brownfield Site, we abandoned it for the NEW! IMPROVED!! Not Now Silly Newsroom.

Feel free to stay and read what you came here to read, but when it's time to leave go to the new place by clicking HERE.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

EXCLUSIVE: Are Valet Companies Stealing From Miami Taxpayers?


The area surrounding the
Coconut Grove Playhouse

[Click map to enlarge]
LEGEND:

A). Grove Gardens Condominiums;
aka The Monstrosity;
B). Regions Bank;
C). The E.W.F. Stirrup House;
D). Zoned residential lots, used
for illegal parking;
E). Part of the 45 parking spaces
leased for Valet Parking;
F). Blue Star Drive In & remaining 45
spaces leased to Valet parking;
G). Playhouse Parking Lot
operated by the MPA;
H). Unlocked gate directing traffic
onto William and Thomas Streets
and location of arrow directing cars
to exit onto Charles Avenue;
I). Main entrance/exit for main
Playhouse parking lot;
J). The Bicycle Shop;
K). The Barnacle, now a State Park,
once belonged to Commodore Ralph
Monroe, a contemporary of E.W.F.
Stirrup;
L). Rich people in gated enclaves;
M). Far less well off people in West
Grove, which has remained
predominately Black and depressed
during the last 125 years;
N). Commodore Plaza, named after
Ralph Monroe, is lined with pricy
eateries and more expensive art
galleries, meant for people with
more disposable income than
those on the surrounding blocks.
A year-long investigation by the Not Now Silly Newsroom has uncovered a situation in which valet parking companies continue to rip off City of Miami taxpayers for an untold numbers of dollars.

Last year, when Miami-Dade Cultural Czar Michael Spring untangled the Gordian knot of the Coconut Grove Playhouse, several pieces of that complex puzzle were the various parking lots surrounding the Playhouse. Paradise Parking was kicked off the main parking lot [G on map to the left] -- after having squatted on it for several years -- in exchange for an arrangement where it rents 45 parking spaces from the MPA, at $6 a day per, immediately behind the Playhouse in lots [E] and [F].

It never occurred to me when I went into journalism that I'd be sitting in parking lots noting the movements of cars and valets, but that's part of what I've been doing for the last year. That surveillance led to several articles. After my last series of parking lot stories, a gate at the west end of the Coconut Grove Playhouse parking lot was ordered locked. It turned out the valets on Commodore Plaza had demanded it be left open on busy Friday and Saturday nights in order to make their job easier.

However -- and this is crucial -- the valet companies don't run the parking lots, nor the city for that matter. They just think they do. That's why they run roughshod over West Grove, caring little about the agreements they've already made. They are playing the city for chumps and stealing money from taxpayers.
[For more on these Coconut Grove parking problems, and so I don't have to repeat myself, please read: The Coconut Grove Playhouse Trojan Horse; Part IPart IIA Playhouse Trojan Horse Update.]
Which brings us to the evening of Saturday, May 2nd. There was a big event at the Cruz Building on Commodore Plaza [N], one street over from the Playhouse parking lot. (The Cruz Building, rumoured to have been built with cocaine money in Miami's Go-Go 80s, is rented out for weddings or bar mitzvahs and the like.) Saturday's event must have been bigger-than-average because the single block of Commodore Plaza was bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic in both directions, with an officer directing traffic directly in front of the Cruz building. Many parking valets were taking cars from the swells and zipping off somewhere, as the security officer held up traffic for them.

That got my journalistic senses tingling. Where were the cars going?

The last time I heard of a big affair at the Cruz building, the valets were illegally parking cars on the 2 residential lots [D] on Charles Avenue, immediately across the street from the E.W.F. Stirrup House [C]. The neighbours called the Not Now Silly Newsroom, which led to this reporter asking 11 questions of [allegedly] corrupt Miami District 2 Commissioner Marc D. Sarnoff. He refused to answer any of them and punted them to the Miami Parking Authority. After waiting 2 months, I finally got answers to those questions that fell within the MPA's bailiwick; not all did, so there are several questions outstanding.

On May 2nd, after some surveillance at 6:30 PM, I discovered the valets were taking cars from the Cruz Building and parking them in the MPA lot, which is not a part of the 45 spaces rented from the MPA. Eventually, by 9PM, the MPA lot was filled with cars, many of which were parked by valets. Private citizens would pull into the parking lot, drive around the small circle and, finding no parking spaces, would leave. Every car that left without finding a parking space was money taken out of the Miami taxpayer's pocket by the valet parking companies.

This is more egregious than it sounds for 2 reasons:
  • The citizens were behaving better than the valets, who stuck their Cruz Building cars anywhere they'd fit, whether there were lines on the ground, or not;
  • At 9PM, parking lot [F], which is rented from the MPA was 100% empty, while parking lot [E], also rented, had only 8 cars in it.

[As a side issue: The Regions Bank parking lot, [B] had 18 cars in it, more than I've ever counted before. I have communicated with Regions Bank only to learn it has sanctioned this valet parking arrangement. The bank cited -- GET THIS!!! -- how it's a convenient arrangements for their own customers because it allows them to drive right up to the night deposit. However, Regions better hope their customers are driving skateboards, because that's all that will really fit.]

In short: The valets fill up every surrounding parking lot first, before they start filling up their own.  They're playing the city and Regions Bank for chumps and stealing money from the taxpayer.

When I told this story to Art Noriega, head of the Miami Parking Authority, he hit the roof on Monday morning. Can't wait for my follow-up interview with him.

Let's tie all this up with a pretty little bow for people who need to have their noses rubbed in the corruption before they actually see it.

Because:
  • The valet companies are connected to Gino Falsetto through Andrew Falsetto at Paradise Parking;
  • Gino Falsetto owns Aries Management & Development LLC;
  • Aries has a 50-year lease on the E.W.F. Stirrup House, the 2nd oldest house in Coconut Grove, designated historic, but currently undergoing nearly a decade of Demolition by Neglect;
  • Aries owns the Bicycle Shop (through another company), which was the subject of Is Aries Development Coconut Grove's Biggest Scofflaw? and Follow Up to " Is Aries Development Coconut Grove's Biggest Scofflaw?", earlier this week;
  • Aries, through other companies, owns the 2 vacant residential lots across the street from the Stirrup House, which had a cute little West Grove shotgun-and conch-style house on each before they were razed;
  • Aries torpedoed several plans over the years to reopen the Coconut Grove Playhouse, allowing further Demolition by Neglect of that venerated structure that the community is still trying to save;
  • Finally, Aries built the Grove Gardens Resident Condominiums, aka The Monstrosity, which set a new precedent for higher density structures in West Grove;

Is it not obvious to the Powers That Be that a single entity is responsible for most of the deterioration of the area immediately surrounding the Main Highway and Charles Avenue, which has been designated a Historic Roadway?

How does Gino Falsetto get away with all of this right under everybody's collective noses? More to the point: Am I the only one watching?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Follow Up to " Is Aries Development Coconut Grove's Biggest Scofflaw?"

On Monday this reporter posted "Is Aries Development Coconut Grove's Biggest Scofflaw?

However, before I even started writing that story I called the Coconut Grove NET office, right at the stroke of 9AM, to make a formal complaint.

I  spoke with a woman named Faye and made it very clear that I was not only calling to register a complaint, but I was also calling as a journalist. I gave her a rundown of the history of the Bicycle Shop being an unsecured construction site last year. I also told her that, although the gate was finally locked, no one ever responded to my phone calls; I left several messages pleading for a callback because the gate was still unlocked a week later. That's why I made it clear to Faye that I would really like a response this year. I know she took down everything I told her because several times she asked me to slow down so she could catch up.

After hanging up I started writing "Is Aries Development Coconut Grove's Biggest Scofflaw?" I was hoping to include a response from either the NET office or Code Compliance in my story. However, many hours later, after I had finished the post and still not heard back, I hit the PUBLISH button.

TO BE HONEST: I really had no expectation someone would phone me. I'm still waiting for that call like I'm still waiting for those phone calls from last year.

Later in the day one of my inside governmental sources suggested I email Eli Gutierrez, the City of Miami Code Compliance Director. I sent a Mr. Gutierrez an email with the link to my story and got an IMMEDIATE reply. More accurately, I got a CC:, as Gutierrez emailed one of his code compliance underlings:
Please an [sic] officer to this site first thing in the morning. Let us know inspection results. Make this a priority. Include the Building department if you need to.
Damn! I should have gone straight to Gutierrez last year. However, if I recall correctly, his was one of the phone numbers at which I left messages.

No matter, because by Tuesday afternoon the site had been inspected and cited for 3 deficiencies, including my original complaint of an unsecured work site. The other 2 fall into the vacant, abandoned, and blighted rubrics. The pictures that accompany this post were taken by the City of Miami Code Compliance and were sent to me as a result of the inspection.

According to Gutierrez the owner was cited for these infractions and fined $1,000. There is a 10-day window in which the owner, Aries Development [which owns the company that owns the Bicycle Shop], can file an appeal. However, they still need to fix the deficiencies ASAP. The only deficiency that the owner has a chance of correcting within that 10-day window is locking the gate.

However, remember the Aftermath of the Great Miami Tree Massacre? In short: The same developer, as the controller of a 50-year lease on the E.W.F. Stirrup House, was cited for cutting down 4 old trees on that property, contrary to Miami By-Laws. Before any trees can be cut in this city, a landscaping plan must be submitted to the city and a permit obtained before any chopping. The owners were fined $4,000, or $1,000 per tree.

IRONY ALERT: The owner of record was not the party that cut down the trees. Aries Development, which has a 50-year lease on the Stirrup House, were the real culprits.

And here's where it gets really sticky: A landscaping plan was filed after the fact and approved. Consequently all the fines were expunged. It's as if the deveoper did nothing wrong whatsoever.

This developer just does what it wants and always seems to escape any real consequences. As the recently retired Miami muckraker Al Crespo might say, "It's Miami, bitches."


Headlines Du Jour ► Thursday, May 7, 2015

Heya, Headliners! Today's birthday belongs to Teresa Brewer, who knew a thing or two about the Headlines Du Jour of yesteryear:
Here is today's Headlines Du Jour:

THE 2016 ELECTION:









LGBT NEWS:





MORE OF THAT REPUBLICAN OUTREACH:



ANOTHER SHOOTOUT AT THE OK CORRAL:



FREE THE WEED!!!




ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA:



FOX "NEWS" IN THE NEWS AGAIN:





ANOTHER EXCITING EPISODE OF COPS GONE WILD:



TODAY IN CLIMATE CHANGE:



IN INNER SPACE:




IN OUTER SPACE:





VIDEOS DU JOUR:



Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in today's open thread.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Headlines Du Jour ► Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Hello again, Headliners. Today's birthday belongs to saxophonist Ace Cannon. Here are some other Headlines Du Jour of yesteryear:
Here is today's Headlines Du Jour:

BALTIMORE:









THE 2016 ELECTION:













SCOTUS WATCH:




LGBT NEWS:




MORE OF THAT REPUBLICAN OUTREACH:








ANOTHER SHOOTOUT AT THE OK CORRAL:




FREE THE WEED!!!






ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA:





FOX "NEWS" IN THE NEWS AGAIN:








ANOTHER EXCITING EPISODE OF COPS GONE WILD:





IN INNER SPACE:




IN OUTER SPACE:




VIDEOS DU JOUR:



Headlines Du Jour is a leisure-time activity of Not Now Silly, home of the Steam-Powered Word-0-Matic, and your rest stop on the Information Highway. Use our valuable bandwidth to post your news comments in today's open thread.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Is Aries Development Coconut Grove's Biggest Scofflaw?

Aries Development is [allegedly] breaking the law again and, if something isn't done, somebody's going to get hurt, probably children. 

Not Now Silly has written about The Bicycle Shop many times in the past year. The condemned structure was deeded to Aries Development, which I have also written about extensively, calling its owner Gino Falsetto the worst neighbour in Coconut Grove.

The Bicycle Shop -- and $15,000 -- was given to Aries by Miami-Dade County in order to get it to relinquish all claims on The Coconut Grove Playhouse. Until then Aries [under the companies Paradise Parking, Double Park, and Carbbean Parking] had been squatting on the Coconut Grove Parking lot and pocketing the parking revenue. Aries had also scuttled several previous deals to reopen the Playhouse because it claimed the previous deals did not adequately compensate it for its loan to the Playhouse board before it went bankrupt. As long as they were collecting the parking fees, there was little incentive to get off that gravy train. However, Miami-Dade finally shook Aries loose last year.

The first thing Aries did when finally getting its grubby corporate mitts on The Bicycle Shop was rip off the roof. This was done without benefit of a building permit, which is how Aries seems to do everything: without any of the necessary permits, and without city or county oversight. Because ripping off the roof created such an unstable structure, metal bracing had to be installed inside to keep the walls from blowing out. Now those steel trusses are the only thing holding the building together.

During the destruction period, and for a while afterwards, this construction/destruction zone was totally open to the public. The gate on the fence was not locked. Children were playing inside. I contacted the city of Miami several times to complain of an unsafe work site. Eventually, the gate was locked.

Now that gate is unlocked again. 

Saturday Night was FAM Night in Coconut Grove. Because I'm a proud participant of the Coconut Grove Drum Circle, I parked in the Playhouse Parking lot, which is right across the street from where we bang a gong.

When I arrived at the Playhouse parking lot I was shocked -- SHOCKED, I TELLS YA! -- that the gate to The Bicycle Shop was open again and two young women were inside taking pictures. So I went inside and took pictures of them.

Later, when I went back to my car to get something, there were children (aged 10-12, I'd estimate) running around inside the Bicycle Shop in the dark. There is nothing more attractive to a kid than an unsecured construction site. There is nothing more dangerous than a child running around a construction site in the dark.

I have already called the Coconut Grove NET office to report this unsafe construction zone. I made it clear that I was calling as a reporter and they assured me that a By-Law Inspector would be calling me back. However, I'm still waiting for those callbacks from when I reported this very same unsafe work site more than a year ago. That's why I hold out no hope I will be called back.

Please keep in mind that Aries Development has not only further blighted the already condemned Bicycle Shop, but controls the 120-year old E.W.F. Stirrup House, which has been designated historic by the city. It has been undergoing Demolition by Neglect ever since Aries acquired a 50-year lease on this important cultural treasure of Black Grove, where the City of Miami actually began. To learn why this is far more egregious than destroying the Bicycle Shop, please read Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past.

Meanwhile, this is just more proof, if any were needed, that Aries Development doesn't care about the residents of Coconut Grove unless they are living in The Monstrosity, aka Grove Gardens Residence Condominiums, which it built behind the Stirrup House. I wonder if it had all the proper permits for that.